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Erich Hartmann

Posted by Jolly on January 12, 2008


Erich Hartmann. 352 kills. Erich “Bubi” Hartmann is the undisputed ace of aces. During a two and a half year period, October 1942 to May 1945, he flew 1404 combat missions on Germany’s World War II eastern front. He was assigned to the Luftwaffe’s Jagdgeschwader 52 where he flew his famous black tulip Bf-109G. He was one of only twenty-seven German soldiers during the war to receive the Knight’s Cross with Diamonds awarded for courage and bravery. In spite of his incredible kill rate, Hartmann later stated the fact he was most proud of during this period was that he never lost a wingman during combat.

Erich Hartmann was born in Germany in April 1922 and spent his early life in China where his father was a doctor. His family returned to Germany in 1928. His mother, a glider pilot, taught him to fly and he obtained his pilot license in 1939. He received his Luftwaffe wings in 1941 and once he completeing his fighter training he was assigned to the Soviet front.

After acclimating to the eastern front and a slow start, Hartmann had 50 kills by August 1943, a month in which he added another 48 to his total. In that same month, after a collision with a Russian IL-2, he had to land behind Soviet lines and was captured. Faking an illness, Hartmann was able to escape, evade the enemy and return to his unit. At the end of 1943 he had 159 total kills and in 1944 he would add another 172. By now he had painted a black tulip on the spinner of his Messerschmitt which made his 109 easily recognizable and brought fear and hesitation to any foes that were lucky enough to see him before he pounced.

Ace of Aces 
(Erich Hartman's black tulip Bf-109G)
by Robert Taylor

In January and February 1944 he downed 50 enemy planes in 60 days. On 1 June 1944 Hartmann shot down four American P-51 Mustangs over the Ploiesti oil fields. 24 August 1944 he got eleven kills and passed 300 total. In 1945 he was asked to join a new Me-262 jet fighter unit but chose to stay with JG-52. After his final kill in May 1945 he was ordered to fly west to a British sector to avoid capture by the Russians. Now, as a JG-52 Group Commander, Hartmann refused and instead surrendered his unit to an American army division.
In accordance with allied agreements, eastern front units, such as Hartmann’s, were handed over to the Soviets. Hartmann was accused by the Russians of war crimes and placed in a POW camp. Conditions were so harsh that only a small percentage of the German prisoners would survive. After attempts to convert him to communism, an offer of a position in the East German air force and his war crimes charges were dropped, Erich Hartmann was released over ten years later in 1955 and returned to West Germany.
Hartmann would join the West German air force and command Jagdgeschwader 71 “Richthofen,” his country’s first jet fighter squadron flying the F-86 Sabre. To raise moral he had his black tulip painted on his unit’s jets and installed a fighter pilot bar in the squadron. He was an outspoken critic concerning a number of issues within the air force, especially, later proven correct, Germany’s purchase of the F-104 Starfighter. He retired in 1970 and died in September 1993.
It is not our place here to question what’s in the heart and mind of a man concerning the political issues of that time. What is apparent is that Erich Hartmann cared for his wingmen and his ground personnel and went to great lengths to protect them. His amazing kill totals were checked repeatedly by Luftwaffe officials which often included placing observers in his combat formations. It’s obvious that his honor, integrity and courage were repeatedly demonstrated during and after the war. That’s what makes Erich Hartman the kind of man that you’d want to go into combat with and a hero of FU.

If you’d like to read more about Erich Hartmann, much of it in his own words, go to Aces of World War II.



Posted by JosenRuiseco on
This was an amazing guy...
Posted by DanBDAKulp on
I actually just ordered "The Blond Knight of Germany" which is Hartmann's biography. I'll post a review after I'm done.

Posted by BearPilot on
My wife and I had the pleasure of sitting with him in his living room for a couple of hours. His proudest memory was that he never lost a wingman - something some pilots I knew should have thought about. His "See, Decide, Attack, Coffee Break" is as valid today as it was then. I taught that at the Fighter Weapons School and in my squadron. One of my treasure is an autographed and personalized copy of his book.
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